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Blasphemy Day expresses freedom of speech

Stephanie Ivankovich

Samanthya Amann, Staff Writer
September 14, 2012

Blasphemy Day, a nationally recognized event that began Sept. 30, 2009 in celebration of freedom of speech, has never been an approved campus event, despite being practiced by students.

International Blasphemy Day was originally founded by the Center for Inquiry, an organization whose mission, according to the website, “is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values.”

According to an article published by the USA Today, The Center for Inquiry chose Sept. 30 as Blasphemy’s official date as it also marked the anniversary of the publication of controversial cartoons depicting the prophet, Muhammad, in a Danish newspaper. The cartoons caused an outrage because the Quran, the holy book of Islam, forbids showing images of the prophet.

According to the USA Today, The Center for Inquiry included International Blasphemy Day as a part of its campaign called, “Campaign for Free Expression.”

Despite Blasphemy Day being celebrated across many college campuses in honor of free speech, Grand View has the right to not allow such an event to take place.

Kaylene Ruby, professor of communication, said, “We’re a private college. If they do it on our property, which is a private property, then we have the right to say what’s acceptable and what’s not. If it’s a public sidewalk or a public street, then that’s different, but if you’re doing anything on Grand View’s property, Grand View has the right to tell you what is acceptable.”

Since Blasphemy Day’s debut in 2009, celebration efforts on campus have been organized by Saul Schlegel, creative writing and studio arts senior.

Schlegel said, “Last year was horribly unsuccessful. I tried to get it approved as a day. They just kept giving me these really strange requirements that I don’t feel like would have been given to any other organization on campus or really any other person.”

Schlegel said administration informed him that the university would hire power washers to wash away the chalk and would charge the bill to his account if he chose to go against the decision.

Jay Prescott, vice president for student affairs, said, “As part of a private institution, you still have rights, but when it comes to doing things on a campus, we have the right as an institution to make sure that what is happening on our campus fits within our mission as a university, our code of conduct and our policies and procedures as a university.”

Prescott said past Blasphemy Day activities have never been proposed to the student life staff, nor have they been approved as campus activities.

“The difference has been that the last couple of years, people have just gone out and done stuff. That’s when they get the negative attraction to what they’re doing because they’re just doing it and they haven’t asked anybody if it’s ok or what guidelines or boundaries they need to follow,” Prescott said.

Prescott said there has not yet been an event proposed for this year’s Blasphemy Day.
For further information regarding campus policies, the Code of Student Conduct is available on MyView. For further information regarding event proposals students can contact Jay Prescott.

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